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New perspective diminishes racial bias in pain treatment
Date:3/7/2011

says.

The researchers have a promising, simple and cheap prescription for the problem. Simply asking the students and nurses to briefly put themselves in their patients' shoes had a drastic effect on their decisions.

"With half of our participants, we said, 'Before you make your treatment decisions, spend a moment imagining how your patient feels about his or her pain and how this pain is affecting his or her life,'" Drwecki says.

The quick shift of perspective reduced the pain treatment gap by 98 percent for the students and 55 percent among the nurses in the study, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"The cool thing is, as humans, we can increase our empathy," Drwecki says. "You may not be the most naturally empathic person, but you can try these interventions and feel them working. Yes, this study demonstrates that racial bias in pain treatment exists, but, more importantly, it teaches us that it's not inevitable."

Moreover, Drwecki believes empathy's role in health care in treatment decisions like pain therapy and factors such as emergency room wait times is ripe for more study.

"There are numerous studies showing similar effects in the real world," Drwecki said. "It's time to not only accept that these racial biases exist, but also to figure out how to eliminate them."


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Contact: Brian Drwecki
drwecki@wisc.edu
608-234-0616
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

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